Can Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe be the QB that the 2022 NFL Draft class has been crying out for? The former Houston Baptist passer has put up video game numbers in his first season at the FBS level. He could set single-season college football records. That sort of production alone should guarantee national attention. However, we’ve put on the tape and delved behind the numbers to deliver Zappe’s scouting report, discovering that he genuinely has pro potential.
Bailey Zappe NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Western Kentucky
- Current Year: Graduate Senior
- Height: 6’0 3/8″
- Weight: 213
- Wingspan: 74 6/8″
- Arm: 31 1/4″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
Bailey Zappe Scouting Report
We’ve become accustomed now to hearing how this 2022 NFL Draft quarterback class isn’t up to the standards of previous years. We’re routinely told that there isn’t a Trevor Lawrence, a Joe Burrow, or a Kyler Murray. The preseason favorites for the QB1 of the class have withered and wilted in the national spotlight.
While Kenny Pickett‘s performances for Pittsburgh have almost put him in pole position, there’s still room for a quarterback to rise like a Phoenix from the flames to balance out the supply-and-demand deficit at the game’s premier position.
Can Zappe be that man in the 2022 NFL Draft? The Western Kentucky QB has been in sensational statistical form this season. But behind the numbers, his scouting report reveals the requisite traits to see the field on a Sunday.
We’ll get to the physical traits shortly, but his mental makeup is one of the most impressive aspects of Zappe’s scouting report. The Western Kentucky QB has earned academic honors throughout his football career, and that level of intelligence is evident on the field. He is routinely tasked with making pre-snap reads and making adjustments. Furthermore, his ability to adapt post-snap is impressive. Zappe can read the entire field, and his accuracy is a testament to his ability to read coverages and find spaces in them.
Intelligence, footwork, arm talent
Zappe’s intelligence is also evident in how he composes himself in the pocket. He exhibits a high level of pocket awareness, rarely taking sacks in the games studied. The Western Kentucky QB can sense pressure, has the mental and physical traits to evade pressure, and throws the ball away when he can’t escape with his legs.
He can escape with his legs due to his above-average athleticism. He’s no Malik Willis in this 2022 NFL Draft class, but Zappe’s 4.7 40-yard-dash speed allows him to evade pressure and pick up yardage on the ground. Additionally, he demonstrates a decent change-of-direction ability to avoid contact.
As a passer, Zappe exhibits good footwork. He’s light on his feet and fluid in his movement on his dropback. This footwork allows him to step up in the pocket to make throws, something that not all 2022 NFL Draft quarterback prospects can do.
Zappe can routinely throw with velocity into tight windows on short and intermediate passing plays. He gets the ball out of his hand with impressive quickness. The Western Kentucky QB also demonstrates the ability to throw with timing and anticipation, putting his pass catchers into position to succeed after the catch. His career completion percentage would have been higher if not for a high number of dropped catches in the games studied.
Zappe also makes some impressive deep throws. There were multiple examples of him throwing from the far hash to the sideline in the games studied. Some of these passes were over 40 yards downfield, demonstrating NFL-caliber arm talent. As with his short and intermediate throws, these are frequently placed where only his receiver can make a play.
Areas for improvement
While Zappe’s scouting report ticks a lot of the boxes of an NFL-caliber quarterback, there are some areas for improvement. I believe that he will rise above his current projections, especially with his opportunity at the Senior Bowl. However, he’ll need to show improvement in a couple of areas to facilitate that rise.
Although there are some incredible deep ball passes on his tape, there are some arm-strength concerns. The Western Kentucky QB can be guilty of throwing a looping deep ball. The ball can hang rather than zip through the air on downfield attempts.
Moreover, his accuracy breaks down when throwing on the run. There were some plays where he zipped the ball into his receiver while moving. However, the majority of on-the-move passes were high, wide, and handsome.
Finally, at 6’1″, there could be some size concerns from the NFL. There are certainly taller quarterback prospects in this class. That said, Zappe doesn’t appear to have the same height-based issues that someone like Sam Hartman has exhibited. Nonetheless, it’s something to be aware of.
Bailey Zappe Player Profile
Zappe is putting up impressive production again. Yet, this time it’s different for the Western Kentucky QB. While Zappe is starting to earn attention in the 2022 NFL Draft, his sensational statistical performances for Victoria East High School went unnoticed and under the radar.
Although he threw 1,302 yards and 13 touchdowns as a high school freshman, he exploded as a junior. During the 2015 season, he threw for 3,241 yards and 42 touchdowns. In his senior campaign, he surpassed those numbers with 3,770 yards. Impressively, he also tallied 650 rushing yards with 52 total touchdowns.
Zappe put up excellent numbers as a quarterback, played basketball, and flashed athletic ability on the 4x100m team. He should have had college football programs tearing down the path to Victoria and beating at his door. That was certainly the opinion of Victoria East coach Roland Gonzalez.
“I really felt like he could play at any level, the highest level,” Gonzalez told Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. “He just needed to get there.”
That would be the problematic part for Zappe. Just the 314th-largest public school in Texas, Victoria East wasn’t a notorious college football recruiting hotspot. In a highly competitive footballing state, scouts didn’t routinely come calling at Victoria East.
As a result, he held just one collegiate offer coming out of high school. Despite interest from Texas A&M, SMU, Rice, Lamar, and Houston, only Houston Baptist University extended an offer to the young quarterback. Furthermore, that offer didn’t come until just one month before National Signing Day.
Zappe’s college football career
So Zappe’s path to the NFL Draft continued at Houston Baptist in the FCS Southland Conference. Despite being a true freshman, he played in 10 games with nine starts in his first season in college. Although it wasn’t all highlights and hot streaks (Zappe threw 10 interceptions to just 5 touchdowns in 2017), he set a school record with 248 yards and a touchdown in a 24-17 win at Texas Southern.
Breaking records would become part of Zappe’s legacy at HBU. During his sophomore season, he set the single-game record with 348 yards against McNeese. In going 32-of-54 passing against Central Arkansas, he set the program record for completions and attempts. By the end of the year, he’d thrown for 2,812 yards with 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, earning an All-Southland Conference honorable mention.
As a junior, he exceeded his record by going 49-of-69 passing against Incarnate Word. Not content with beating his records, Zappe threw for 7 touchdowns against Texas Southern, establishing a new marker for future quarterbacks at the program. Demonstrating exceptional development between his second and third years, Zappe led the nation with 35 passing touchdowns and ranked second in the country with 317.6 yards per game.
Zappe showcases potential despite the disruption of the 2020 college season
Amidst the most disrupted college football season in recent history, the FCS level was hit particularly hard. HBU played just four games, but Zappe seized the opportunity to make a name for himself. He threw for over 400 yards in three of those games, including a career-high 567 yards against Texas Tech. Showcasing his ability to mix it at the highest level, those were the most passing yards by an FCS quarterback against the FBS.
After leading the nation with 458.3 yards per game, Zappe was faced with a decision. There was the potential to capitalize on his performances and head to the NFL Draft. Houston Baptist was also scheduled to play in the 2021 FCS Spring season. However, in the December of 2020, Zappe entered the transfer portal, securing a move to Western Kentucky.
Having ended his Houston Baptist career with 10,004 passing yards, 79 touchdowns, and 39 interceptions, the new Western Kentucky QB began the season as something of a curiosity. Analysts were intrigued as to how Houston Baptist’s offense would translate to the FBS level. While Zappe started the season on multiple watch lists, the list of potential 2022 NFL Draft quarterbacks wasn’t one of them.
Zappe’s transfer to WKU propels him into the 2022 NFL Draft conversation
Regardless, Zappe’s play through the 2021 college football season has elevated him firmly into the 2022 NFL Draft conversation. Through 11 games, he has amassed a staggering 4,640 passing yards and 48 touchdowns. The Western Kentucky QB has six games with over 400 yards. In eight games this season, he has completed over 70% of his passes. He has five contests with 5+ touchdowns, including 7 TDs in his debut against UT Martin.
Zappe isn’t just picking apart FCS teams for an FBS program, however. While Michigan State doesn’t possess the best pass defense in the nation, Zappe threw for 488 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Big Ten contender. Additionally, he put up 523 yards (second-most of his career) against an undefeated UTSA team.
In the 2019 college football season, Joe Burrow parlayed an incredible, record-breaking statistical campaign into the first overall selection of the 2020 NFL Draft. While we’re not comparing Zappe to Burrow (or even Zach Wilson in last year’s class), he is on course to set single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns per game.
He’ll take those record-breaking performances to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. Regarded as a kingmaker at the quarterback position, Zappe should only further elevate his 2022 NFL Draft stock in front of a national audience. For the first time in his career, all eyes are on Zappe, with the potential that he can be the quarterback that this 2022 NFL Draft class has been crying out for. It’s the leadership role his whole career has been building towards.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Bailey Zappe
Positives: Super-productive college passer who shows patience, goes through progressions, and looks away from covered targets. Natural looking off the safety, very decisive in the pocket, and quickly gets the ball out of his hands. Only takes off and runs with the ball when absolutely necessary. Displays tremendous pocket presence and overall awareness and remains poised under the rush. Effectively commands and controls the offense, knows where receivers are on the field, and takes big hits in order to get the throw away. Distributes the ball to all his targets. Displays a sense of timing on throws.
Negatives: Possesses an average arm and cannot drive deep passes or get the ball through tight windows. Shortens throws with a three-quarters delivery. Must do a better job placing passes and throwing receivers free.
Analysis: Zappe has been the toast of the town and led the high-powered aerial offense for Western Kentucky last season. Though he’s been incredibly productive on the college level, I see a lot of limitations in his game, as he’s a shorter and weaker-armed passer with average ability running with the ball. His understanding of the game and the position will help him capture a roster spot, though I never see Zappe being anything other than a third signal-caller in the NFL.